Landscape gardening

Talented students prove they are among the best

Chris Shore preparing for his WorldSkills UK final build (photo thanks to Steve Burden Photography)

Chris Shore preparing for his WorldSkills UK national final build (photo thanks to Steve Burden Photography)

Three talented Reaseheath students proved they were among the best in the country by successfully competing in the WorldSkills UK national finals.

Garden landscaper Chris Shore and florists Fiona Davies and Robyn Longden battled it out in front of record crowds last week at The Skills Show, the nation’s largest skills and careers event.

Fiona Davies' final pieces from the competition

Fiona Davies’ final pieces from the competition

Although none brought back a medal, all three classed the show ‘an amazing experience’ and Robyn has been selected to join the potential squad for the next WorldSkills GB team. She and the other young people on the long list will be offered further training opportunities before final selection nearer the 2017 world finals, which will be held in Abu Dhabi.

Robyn will be encouraged to follow in the footsteps of Matt Beesley, a former Level 3 Diploma in Horticulture student who, with fellow team member Jonathan Gill from Northern Ireland, won GB’s first ever medal in landscape gardening at the WorldSkills final in Sao Paulo, Brazil this summer.

Robyn is a Level 3 Diploma in Floristry student while Fiona, who manages our Level 2 Diploma in Floristry course, is studying for her Level 5 Master Diploma in Professional Floristry. Chris has gained his Level 3 Diploma in Horticulture with us and has now progressed onto his Foundation Degree in Garden and Landscape Design. He was one of just six students or apprentices nationwide to qualify for the finals.

Our florists had to create five designs – a hand tied bouquet, a wreath, a bridal bouquet, a decorated lampshade and a pair of customised high heeled shoes – while Chris built a garden to plan which included hard and soft landscaping.

Robyn Longden competing at The Skills Show 2015

Robyn Longden competing at The Skills Show 2015

As well as supporting our competing students, we also took an impressive stand showcasing horticulture, floristry, countryside and environmental archaeology. The Skills Show, at the NEC Birmingham, attracted 80,000 visitors. Many colleagues who helped to staff the stand over the three days said that in their opinion it was the best event they had ever attended.


WorldSkills UK

Silver for Reaseheath landscaper in world finals

Talented Reaseheath College trained landscape gardener Matt Beesley has proved he is among the world’s best by taking silver at the WorldSkills finals in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Matt, from Winsford, and fellow team member Jonathan Gill, from Northern Ireland, achieved Britain’s first ever medal in landscape gardening at the global, Olympics style final last week (finished Sun 16). The pair had to prove their skills and stamina in hard landscaping, plant knowledge and management by building a garden from scratch in four days under the gaze of 259,000 spectators.

WorldSkills runs the competition bi-annually for students aged 23 and under to showcase the skills and value of young professionals in industries ranging from construction, engineering technology and transportation to IT, communications and social and personal services. The GB team recorded its best ever performance with 33 medals.

WorldSkills Sao Paulo closing Ceremony Team UK Matt Beesley with Rianne Chester

WorldSkills Sao Paulo closing Ceremony Team UK Matt Beesley with Rianne Chester

Matt, 21, completed his Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horticulture at Reaseheath College in Nantwich in 2012. He now runs his own successful business, Beesley’s Landscapes in Winsford, and employs two apprentices. He first competed in the British selection rounds for WorldSkills while a Reaseheath student and has continued to train intensively as a potential squad member.

The former Hartford High School pupil said: “Winning silver in the world finals has been the best experience of my life. The whole WorldSkills programme has been awesome. I have learned so much and gained such a lot of confidence. I’d particularly like to thank my hard landscape instructor at Reaseheath, Jason Hinks, and my parents for their support.”

Said Jason: “I’m really proud of Matt and how he’s developed as a professional landscaper through WorldSkills. This programme is all about benefiting the students through training and helping them to realise their potential.”

Another former Level 3 Reaseheath horticulture student is a potential member of the GB squad for WorldSkills 2017, to be held in Abu Dhabi.  Christopher Shore, who is about to start his Foundation Degree in Garden and Landscape Design, has successfully  qualified for this year’s WorldSkills UK national finals. The competition is run by the Association of Professional Landscapers for WorldSkills UK.


The Leaf

Reaseheath garden catches the eye at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

Pupils from The Dingle Primary School, Haslington, enjoyed the limelight when they appeared on Reaseheath College’s eye catching garden at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park.

Thomas Atkinson, six, his seven year-old sister Beau, Poppy Beeson, eight, and seven year-old Ruby Deaville, who were dressed as ‘bug hunters’, posed on the garden with a giant aphid for photographers on press day.

The flower show, which showcases the best of British gardening talent, was enjoyed by 80,000 visitors before closing on Sunday (July 26). Reaseheath College, in Nantwich, a regular medal winner in previous years, chose this year to put on an educative feature so was not judged in the show garden category.

Beau Atkinson, Ruby Deaville, Poppy Beeson and Thomas Atkinson

Beau Atkinson, Poppy Beeson, Ruby Deaville and Thomas Atkinson from The Dingle Primary School with Reaseheath College’s giant aphid

In line with the RHS’s aim to inspire the younger generation into careers involving horticultural science and viable food production, the garden – called ‘The Leaf’, took visitors on an exploration through the structural layers of a leaf and showed how the plant might try to avoid predators.

The garden was sponsored by Pochin Construction, who are the contractors on Reaseheath’s £8.5 million national centre for horticulture, sustainability and environmental management which is currently being built. The giant aphid was manufactured by Nantwich firm Harbrook Engineering.

The garden itself was designed and built by Foundation Degree in Garden and Landscape Design undergraduates Matthew Kent, Nigel Barber and Sam Lawton. Matt said: “We wanted to step outside the box and design something which was young and interesting. We really enjoyed the reaction of visitors when they were viewing the garden.”

RHS Robyn Longden

Floristry student Robyn Longden shows off the RHS Tatton Park Floristry College of the Year award

Reaseheath floristry students were also celebrating after winning the RHS Tatton Park Floristry College of the Year Competition for the second year running.

The prestigious competition is open to UK based floristry colleges and training providers and showcases the talent of students.

Reaseheath’s victorious team were Level 3 Diploma in Floristry students Carol Edgington, Robyn Longden and Rachel Collinson-Fletcher, who were supported by Head of Floristry Sue Poole.

The students, who were commended by Chairman of Judges Ian Lloyd for their contemporary design skills and for the impeccable condition of their flowers and foliage, have now qualified for the national finals at the Chelsea Flower Show 2016. Reaseheath’s student team took the ‘runner-up’ title at Chelsea this year.

The challenge at Tatton was to create four designs which represented ‘Musical Through Time’. Reaseheath’s florists chose ‘My Fair Lady’ as their theme and created a hat, a wired bouquet, a buffet table arrangement and an arrangement for the entrance of the theatre.

As well as winning the college competition they also won a silver gilt medal for their stand.

Ian Lloyd, who is a senior RHS floristry judge, said: “The stand was immaculate and the finish and presentation were excellent. The whole exhibit was a real credit to Reaseheath’s students and all the judges were extremely impressed.”

Three Reaseheath horticulture students also contested the WorldSkills UK Landscape Gardening semi finals at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park. Chris Shore, 20, who has just completed his Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horticulture, qualified for the national finals, to be held at The Skills Show in November.

Reaseheath was also one of partners on the Cheshire’s Gardens of Distinction exhibit and ran a series of demonstrations in the Discover and Grow section.

RHS GROUP full group 1mb

Accolade for RHS students

Eighty-five students who gained Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) qualifications at Reaseheath this year have celebrated their achievements.

Mirroring the national trend, around half are professional horticulturists furthering their development while the remainder are career changers and keen leisure gardeners.

Level 2 Friday practical group

Level 2 Friday practical group

Reaseheath is recognised as the leading RHS training and examination centre in the north west and students currently travel from as far as the Wirral, Manchester, Oldham and Church Stretton to attend courses. This year 90 students with a wide age range are enrolled.

Reaseheath offers separate theory and practical qualifications at both Level 2 and Level 3. Once both awards are achieved they convert into a well respected RHS Level 2 or Level 3 Diploma in the Principles and Practices of Horticulture.

Level 2 Monday practical group

Level 2 Monday practical group



Based in Reaseheath’s new £8.3 million Centre for Horticulture, the Environment and Sustainable Technology, RHS students complete a minimum of 430 learning hours to achieve the diploma. Apart from attending lectures they take part in practical activities in the college grounds and also play a key role in building our show gardens at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park. In addition they enjoy trips to outstanding local gardens and many will join a study tour to Barcelona next summer.

Congratulating the students at an awards presentation at Reaseheath Hall, RHS Course Manager Anne Harrison said: “These qualifications demand a lot of individual input and the final exams are very stringent. This is why they are so well recognised and respected in the industry. You have put in a tremendous effort, with some of you juggling jobs and home duties alongside your studies, and you should all be very proud of your achievements.”

Head of Horticulture Sarah Hopkinson and RHS Master of Horticulture Harry Delaney, who taught some the students before retiring last year, also attended the ceremony.

Reaseheath offers the RHS Level 2 and Level 3 Certificates in Horticulture (theory and practical) as weekly daytime courses and an additional RHS Level 2 Certificate in Horticulture (theory only) as an evening course.

Team photography for design portfolios and lectures! 200 by 200

Horticulture study tour 2015

41 students from across the horticulture department have just returned from a  study tour of Holland and Belgium, visiting a host of gardens and nurseries. Each group was armed with a team Mr Potato Head to support them with tweeting about their adventures in Holland, accompanied by lecturers Craig Bailey and Carol Adams.

Students with their Mr Potato Head!

Students with their Mr Potato Head!

‘May the Forth be with you’ (4th May) saw us travelling across France and Belgium to our destination in Noordwijk aan Zee, a coastal resort near Amsterdam. To keep us entertained on route we set Star Wars themed quizzes and a costume challenge for each group (much to many people’s relief the costume challenge was…for their Mr Potato heads!)

Our first visit, having travelled through the bulb fields of Lisse was 4 hours in the international tourist attraction Keukenhof, boasting with 32 hectares including over 70 million bulbs, over 300 varieties of tulips, orchid exhibitions, plant exhibitions and show gardens.

FdSc students and Craig walking on water!

FdSc students and Craig walking on water!


Many of the group sheltered in an exhibition hall during our first downpour of the tour and exuberantly joined in the singing and dancing with the dutch band Kleintje Pils who played at the Sochi Olympics!

Then we set off to visit the Thijsse’s Hof, a 2 hectare garden home to the native plants of Kennemerland in natural vegetation groups, a pioneer of the naturalistic conservation style of planting.pic 6



The following day was an early start (6.30am in Holland) taking a trip to the  Aalsmeer Flower Auction (Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer), the largest commercial building in the world selling approximately 20 million flowers each day.

horticulture students shelter from the rain

horticulture students shelter from the rain



We travelled along an aerial walkway looking down on the bustle (and near misses) of the warehouses and looked into the auction and testing rooms. We then travelled on to the Nursery Museum in Aalsmeer and were guided through their working exhibitions on rose breeding, Lilac and Viburnum cut flower production, Fruit, Conifer and perennial production systems as well as having a go at bidding on one of the retired auction hose price clocks.

Half way through the Aslsmeer Flower Auction

Half way through the Aalsmeer Flower Auction



The group’s next stop was Amsterdam. Many of us toured the city by canal boat and took a trip to the Floating Flower Market to stock up on unusual seeds and bulbs.

Thursday we travelled through the orchard region in Holland to the 26 hectares of De Idee Tuinen (Idea Gardens) in Appleturn, home to over 260 display gardens including conceptual gardens, traditional gardens, water gardens, conservation and green engineering displays and natural play provision.

Our final day we visited the Nursery town of Boskoop, calling in at Esveld Nurseries, who are specialists in unusual trees, shrubs and perennials. Good job we all brought small suitcases… customs in Calais guessed which country we had been on tour to… as soon as they opened the boot of the bus and were met by a cascade of plants tumbling out!

On our return trip we called into the University of Gent’s Botanical Garden for a stretch of legs and a final top-up of horticultural novelty. The outdoor microclimate and massive glasshouses housed many rare and unusual plant species and we enjoyed looking at their extensive collection of tropical flytraps and exotic food crops, as well as playing with the Sensitive plants (their foliage snaps shut when you brush the leaf with your finger as a defensive mechanism against predators).

We arrived back in the UK on Saturday morning at 3.30am and proceeded to ram plants and cases into waiting parents cars…what a great study tour!

Carol Adams

Course Manager and Lecturer, Horticulture Department

All contestants seated ready to begin YHOY regional final

Grow Careers in Horticulture

All contestants seated ready to begin YHOY regional final

Professional horticulturists, careers advisors, students and prospective students packed into Reaseheath’s lecture theatre last Thursday for first North West Grow Careers event. The day commenced with an introduction to horticulture for career advisors by Chartered Institute of Horticulture Branch Chair, Sue Nicholas, followed by Reaseheath’s Curriculum Area Manager, Sarah Hopkinson, who provided an insight in to the horticulture department’s offering and the new Nation Centre for Food Futures at Reaseheath.

Garden designer Pip Probert from OutserSpaces discussing aspects of her practice.

The afternoon saw eight industry speakers from the design, landscaping, commercial production and management sectors of horticulture discuss their careers and businesses. Speakers included: multi RHS Gold Medalist designer Pip Probert; Phil Pearson from APS Salads (the largest supplier of tomatoes to Tesco); Faye Steer, Deputy Head Gardener for Chatsworth House; Lee Webster from The Landscape Group and former Reaseheath student Sue Beesley, who is also the owner of Blue Cottage Gardens and Nursery.

The speakers highlighted a wide range of career opportunities within the horticulture industry, with many urging the keen audience to pursue a career in horticulture and fill the gaps in specialist knowledge and skills. The Landscape Group actively promoted opportunities within their business including discussing their Greener Graduate programme – with many students registering their interest on the day!

The Grow Careers event was organised in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Horticulture (CIH) and was followed in the evening by the  CIH Regional Final of the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition, hosted by the horticulture department.

Curriculum Area Manager, Sarah Hopkinson presenting the winner with his certificate and prize money.

Curriculum Area Manager, Sarah Hopkinson presenting the winner with his certificate and prize money.

Craig Bailey, Lecturer in Horticulture, Course Manager to FdSc Garden & Landscape Design